98: [Ask Halelly] Leading Naysayers – How Should I Lead People Who Don't Want To Follow? on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

ep098 Ask Halelly leading naysayers people who dont want to follow TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

They don’t want to follow. They resist. What should you do? It’s time for another super short and highly informative Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show, where I answer a question from a listener, a learner in one of my corporate workshops, a member of the audience at one of my conference speaking events, or a member of the media.

This week’s question is: “How Should I Lead People Who Don't Want To Follow?” My answer might surprise you: Thank them... What? Yep, I encourage you to listen to your naysayers and look for ways that they might be actually helping you out by resisting. I even recorded a video version – you can see it over on the TalentGrow blog, or listen to episode (it’s less than 8 minutes long!) right here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

And be sure to submit your own question that might be featured on a future episode of Ask Halelly on the TalentGrow Show!


Question: What should I do when someone, or a couple of people on my team, seem resistant or don’t follow my direction readily?

Halelly’s Answer: I want to push you into a bit of discomfort today and get you to look at this situation with curiosity: how might they be doing you a favor in resisting? Naysayers can help you avoid bad decisions and maybe even disastrous results, if you truly listen to them.

  • How is this like being the captain of the Titanic?
  • What to do instead of following your kneejerk reaction of resentment
  • How to nurture your naysayers
  • Why courageous leaders should develop courageous followers
  • How you can avoid CEO Disease (and what that is)



Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Anyway you like it, I would love to hear your question!

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow


Episode 98 Ask Halelly

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there TalentGrowers. Welcome back to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. This time it is a solo episode that I call Ask Halelly. Every once and a while I do one of these episodes where instead of an interview with someone else I answer a question that I received from a podcast listener, a member of the media or someone who has taken one of my workshops or was in the audience for one of my conference sessions where I speak. This particular question is about how to lead people who don’t want to follow. I’m Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and I can’t wait for you to listen to this episode. You can also watch it on my vlog, the video that I recorded. You can go to TalentGrow.com/blog and it’s the latest one that’s releasing at the same time as this episode if you’re listening in real time. Or if you’re listening to this at a later date, you can just search by keyword “Naysayers.” Here we go. Let’s get into it.

Being a leader is really hard. It’s one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have, but it also can be very rewarding. I try to help leaders be the kind of leader that people actually want to follow. But I was recently asked a question, “Halelly, what do I do if I’m experiencing someone or maybe a couple of different people on my team who don’t seem to want to follow my direction, my vision, my guidance? What should I do with people like that, who seem to be resistant to following or non-compliant?”

Now, I have lots and lots of advice on my podcast, the TalentGrow Show, on my blog, in my books and in the work I do in the world, that can help you become the kind of leader people want to follow. And to become a more influential and successful leader. But I want to challenge you today. When you experience pushback, when you experience resistance, when you experience someone who seems to not follow what you’re doing, instead of following that knee-jerk reaction of resentment, look for ways in which they might actually be helping you out. Are they doing you a favor by pushing back?

Think about the Titanic, as a metaphor. If you were on the deck of the Titanic and you’re the captain and you just told everybody to rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, because they’re moving around, hopefully if there is an employee on that deck who saw that iceberg over on the horizon, they probably will push back on your instruction to rearrange the deck chairs. If you’re open to listening to their perspective, you might learn from them why. And you could potentially avoid a very, very disastrous decision, and change your mind about what you’ve asked everyone to do.

So when someone is pushing back, how could you entertain their resistance without that resentment, but with curiosity? What might they be seeing or what might they know that you don't? They have a different perspective on the work. They have a different kind of input from maybe clients or people on the front line that you don’t. And they could be doing you a huge favor by pushing back and giving you some input about what might be a mistake in the direction that you’re setting.

So challenge yourself that when you experience some resistance, when you experience a challenge, when someone seems to be getting in your way – and not just following in line – maybe there is a way in which they’re helping you out and maybe you should be thankful for it. One of the guests I’ve had on the podcast before, Ira Chaleff, wrote a book called Courageous Followership. And as Courageous Leaders, which is another book he wrote, we definitely want to develop people around us who are willing and able to push back. And to resist leadership that could be guiding them in the wrong direction, like what happened in Enron in that fiasco where people didn’t feel comfortable to speak up.

Daniel Goleman coined the term CEO disease. I wrote about this in a blog post where I said leaders, you need to nurture your naysayers. CEO disease is when people, as they rise up, begin to be surrounded by yes men and yes women, people who just tow the line, who tell them their ideas are all great, who just say yes, who don’t push back. The more that you move into a higher and higher position of leadership, the greater the risk is that people will be afraid to push back. People will be afraid to be naysayers.

So, when you experience someone as a naysayer, instead of seeing them as someone who is in your way or something to fix, be looking for a way in which to nurture, develop and encourage them to speak up so that you can have that additional perspective and potentially prevent disastrous problems.

I hope you enjoyed this Ask Halelly episode, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought about this particular one and whether you agree with me, that maybe you need to nurture your naysayers. By the way, I mentioned there’s a video that’s over on my blog and you can definitely go and watch it over there. Also, as I mentioned in the episode, I did write a blog post that lays out exactly what CEO disease is, how to know that you have it, and how to avoid it, with five tips for nurturing naysayers. That’s also over on the blog and I’ll link to it in the show notes. So, I definitely encourage you to go over there and check it out.

Before we close out, I just wanted to share with you a fabulous review I received on Apple Podcasts, formerly known as iTunes, and this comes from Covisioner. The title of this review is “Always useful ideas,” and Covisioner says, “Every show gives me tips and actionable steps I can apply to strengthen my own business and my relationships with others. The show keeps getting better. Thank you Halelly for finding great experts and facilitating worthwhile programs.” I really appreciate you, thank you for that very kind and generous review. Reviews are a great way for other people to, when they discover the show, to feel encouraged to check it out. If you haven’t yet left an Apple Podcasts review for the show, it is so easy to do, and it means so much to me. As you could hear, it’s short. One, two, three sentences, and all you have to do is just say what you like about the show and hopefully you’ll leave a five-star rating as well. I thank you advance if you did that and of course I can read it on a future episode of the TalentGrow Show.

I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and this has been another Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show. Thank you so much for listening and I hope that you’ll apply what you learned here and until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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Intro/outro music: "Why-Y" by Esta

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